Seven days out from race day, we had no snow. It wasn’t looking good. We had a January thaw that removed most of our snow. A deep freeze turned all the remaining snow into ice. Then there was a blip on the weather forecast. A storm appeared. The first model runs showed 5-8″. Optimism! Following models showed as little as 1″ and as much as 14″. OK, so not as optimistic, but enough for hope. On the day before the storm, forecasts improved. 4-8″ was likely. When the storm wrapped up, we had a fresh 10″ on the ground. Race on.
This was my first ski race. Biking and running have been more of my thing. I didn’t know what to expect. Would anyone else register? Would there be swarms of people? Would I even be able to ski without tripping over anyone? Legitimate questions. I just wanted to ski with a bunch of other awesome Minnesotans.
The race went off without a hitch. About 250 folks were in the same 10K classic, a record number of participants for this race. Tracks were congested for the first half mile or so, then the field spread out. Hills were clean and the snow was soft. The first half of the course was up and down hardwood hills in Theodore Wirth Park, followed by 5K on frozen lakes–Brownie, Cedar, Isles and Calhoun respectably. Once we hit the lakes, a strong southerly wind hit us hard. This was a wind we had to battle for three miles. By this point, the field was open enough that you could ski at whatever pace you’d like. We cruised across Isles and Calhoun until the finish line was in sight. And with it, a beer tent. Audra and I wanted to finish at the same time. We ended up a tenth of a second apart, with my ski tips crossing the line first.
Racers flocked to the food/beer/vendor/warming tent upon crossing the line. It was full of winter-loving others. We had chili and local suds and talked about the race. Having run five marathons, countless 5Ks and a couple bike century rides, this ski race was some of the most fun I’ve had with a finish line involved.
Minnesotans are a hearty breed. We enjoy the outdoors and thrive in the snow. Some call us crazy for living here. The City of Lakes Loppet was a celebration of all that is Minnesota. This is my newest tradition.